At its first in-person meeting in more than a year, the Waterbury Select Board voted to rescind the resolution adopted last year requiring individuals wear masks in public to slow the spread of COVID-19. At the June 7 meeting, the board also approved multiple requests for permits connected with public events which signal a return this summer to community gatherings and celebrations.
Given that state public health guidance around the COVID-19 pandemic no longer mandates that masks be worn in public if individuals are vaccinated, the select board took the step to drop the local requirement.
Municipal manager Bill Shepeluk told the select board that town staff have set July 12 as the reopening date for the municipal offices. Currently members of the public may meet with town staff by appointment only. The Waterbury Public Library is scheduled to reopen June 16.
The board reviewed and approved requests for permits connected with several upcoming summer public events.
- The Not Quite Independence Day celebration organized by the Waterbury Rotary Club is scheduled for July 10. Usually held on the last Saturday in June, the event was pushed into July earlier this year as organizers aimed for a time when they expected COVID-19 restrictions to be mostly if not completely lifted. Although it appears Vermont will reach that point sooner, Rotary president Dan McKibben told the board that plans are moving ahead to stick with that date. The select board approved the Rotary request for a festival permit that will involve temporary fencing around Rusty Parker Memorial Park for the NQID event. That will allow organizers to create two entry and exit points and vendors selling food and beer will be located within that boundary. The festivities this year, themed “The Roaring 20s,” will include a parade at 4 p.m., a picnic and concert at Rusty Parker Park and fireworks behind the state office complex at dusk.
- Next the board heard from Robert Chase regarding the Vermont Antique & Classic Car Meet which is scheduled for August 13-15 at Farr’s Field this year. The event was not held in 2020 due to the pandemic. The request to the select board was to allow for lower Stowe Street to be closed for music and dancing on the Saturday evening of that weekend following a car parade through town. The board unanimously approved that permit.
- Another event will close the lower block of Stowe Street on July 17 when WDEV radio station celebrates its 90th anniversary. The board approved a request to close the street between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. The station will broadcast live outside its offices; the event will be open to the public to attend and there will be refreshments.
BLUSH HILL PAVING
Shepeluk told the board that he has received just one request from a Blush Hill resident asking that the town refrain from milling all of the pavement along the road this summer and leaving a section unpaved.
The town plans to repave Blush Hill Road from Kimberly Lane to the end of the paved section starting this summer but finishing next year. A wrinkle involves a culvert near Misty Hollow Road that needs to be rebuilt and won’t be completed until next year.
The project will involve scraping up nearly a mile of existing pavement that will be replaced and putting down new asphalt stopping short of the culvert. Once the culvert work is done, the paving will be extended to the end of the project. The work also involves repaving and extending the asphalt on Lonesome Trail Road, a side street to Blush Hill Road.
The concern raised by the resident was about dust, rough road conditions, and mud in the area where pavement will be removed and left unfinished for a year. In addition to residential traffic, the road is particularly busy in the summertime with traffic to and from the Waterbury Reservoir.
Shepeluk explained that it will be more costly to remove the pavement in two phases. He also pointed out that after the milling is completed, the roadway will not be a “standard gravel surface.” The milled asphalt will remain on the roadway which will also be treated with calcium chloride, graded and possibly rolled. “It should compact well over the course of the next year and should be a good base for an asphalt overlay next year. Dust and mud should not be too much of a problem. I cannot guarantee that potholes or washboards won’t appear, but the road will likely be in as good condition as it is now,” Shepeluk explained in his report to the board.
The project will move ahead as planned with pavement milling scheduled for next week, likely Wednesday-Thursday, Shepeluk said. Weather could affect the schedule, however.
KIDS’ MEALS GET $60,000 GRANT
Waterbury Recreation director Nick Nadeau told the board that Albertsons, parent company to Shaw’s grocery stores, has approved a $60,000 grant request he submitted to pay for summer meals for children enrolled in the town recreation camp program starting June 21.
Past years have relied on the Waterbury Area Senior Center for meals to feed kids in rec camp programs. The senior center is not open yet for meals and given the timing, Nadeau said having a meal program in place for the start of camp was a priority.
The funding should provide breakfast and lunch for campers through its eight weeks, Nadeau said, explaining that he plans to work with local restaurants to help prepare meals. It may even be adequate to include children enrolled in the smaller Camp Koda day camp run by the Greater Burlington YMCA using Thatcher Brook Primary School.
Albertsons previously awarded the Recreation Department a $10,000 grant that it used to help purchase a van.
The town recreation camp has 130 kids from kindergarten through seventh grade enrolled. It will operate at three locations: the recreation building at Anderson Field, Wesley United Methodist Church and St. Leo’s Hall behind St. Andrew Catholic Church.
In a separate request, Nadeau asked the select board to approve using the $2,000 it would have paid St. Andrew for rent for the summer camp to instead install a sturdy basketball hoop on church property.
Temporary hoops set up at the church have been very popular with youngsters from the rec camp and in the community, Nadeau said. The new hoop would become property of the church but Pastor Matthew Rensch said it will be available for the community to use. The board approved the request.
ANTI-RACISM MESSAGE PERSISTS
During public comment time at the start of Monday’s meeting several local residents continued their calls for board vice chair Chris Viens to step down from his leadership role on the board. Erin Lander spoke representing the Waterbury Area Anti-Racism Coalition which last fall called for Viens to resign over statements they said demonstrated racism and lack of awareness for racial equity.
Viens stepped down as chair but at the March board reorganization was voted to be vice chair by a unanimous vote of the board. Criticism since that decision was made, however, has included new calls for him to step aside from the leadership role.
“We either name and dismantle racism or uphold it,” said Alexia Venafra during the comment period. “[Vice chair] is a position of power.”
Viens was absent Monday and board chair Mark Frier acknowledged the request saying he did not want to discuss it at length without Viens. “I’m not sure how to proceed here,” he said.
Board member Mike Bard noted that the board plans its session on racial equity training for June 21 and the matter would best be taken up afterward. The training will be the only topic for the board at that time and it will not be a public meeting.
Scagliotti is the editor of the Waterbury Roundabout.